MOZART: Great Mass in C Minor, KV 427. Ave Verum Corpus,
KV 618. Exultate, Jubilate, KV 165.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54. Symphony No.
9 in E flat, Op. 70.
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
HERBERT VON KARAJAN in rehearsal and performance
Bernstein enthusiasts will delight in threse three releases all directed by Humphrey Burton who makes a point of keeping the camera on the conductor most of the time so we can see Bernstein's delight, agony, and despair ad nauseum. In the concert hall one could just look elsewhere, but on these DVDs the viewer has no choice. The performances are excellent by any standards, orchestral playing outstanding, the 5.l surround sound artificially —and effectively—produced. The Mozart and Shostakovich also are available on CD. Symphony No. 9 was recorded in Vienna's Musikverein October 23-28, 1985, Symphony No. 6 October 4-10, 1986. As a bonus on this DVD, Bernstein offers commentaries on both symphonies. The Mozart works were recorded April 4-6, 1990 (the year of Bernstein's death), and apparently there were some re-take sessions. Bernstein gives a brief (7:15) introduction to the Mozart, in German, but there are subtitles in Latin, English, French, Spanish and Chinese as well as German. There's an audience present for these works by Mozart; it seems odd that they do not applaude the entrance of soloists or conductor before the performances.
Bernstein recorded only Bruckner's Sixth and Ninth symphonies, both with the New York Philharmonic. This DVD of Symphony No. 9 offers a performance of Symphony No. 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic, the conductor's final appearance with the famed orchestra. It was recorded during concerts in the Musikverein February 26 - March 2, 1990. Emotion was high during the performance—everyone knew that Bernstein was very ill and probably would not get better (he died seven months later). This is a fascinating performance of Bruckner's final symphony but probably would not be on anyone's preferred list of recordings. Excellent sound.
The Herbert von Karajan DVD is fascinating in many ways. Directed by Henri-Georges Glouzot, the camera fortunately does not focus extensively on the conductor (as it did in most of Karajan's later video recordings). We have a one-hour meticulous rehearsal of Schuman's Symphony No. 4 followed by a studio performance of the entire work played by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. At the beginning, Karajan mentions they are going to record the work the following day for Deutsche Grammophon, but I don't know of any recording he made of this music with this orchestra that was released—if it was, please let us know! Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 has only a sixteen-minute rehearsal (preceded by a five minute commentary by Karajan on the art of the conductor), followed by a complete performance of the symphony. This is a studio performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, a huge BPO(8 French horns!!), and a rather strange arrangement of the orchestra. A fascinating documentary!
R.E.B. (September 2006)